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MIT Researchers Invent 'Super Glass' 199

Posted by samzenpus
from the none-better dept.
redletterdave writes "On Thursday, researchers at MIT announced a breakthrough in glass-making technology, which basically involves a new way to create surface textures on glass to eliminate all of the drawbacks of glass, including unwanted reflections and glare. The research team wanted to build glass that could be adaptable to any environment: Their 'multifunctional' glass is not only crystal clear, but it also causes water droplets to bounce right off its surface, 'like tiny rubber balls.' The glass is self-cleaning, anti-reflective, and superhydrophobic. The invention has countless applications, including TV screens, as well as smartphone and tablet displays that benefit from the self-cleaning ability of the glass by resisting moisture and contamination by sweat."
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MIT Researchers Invent 'Super Glass'

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  • by BagOBones (574735) on Thursday April 26, 2012 @06:15PM (#39813295)

    But can you build a whale tank with it?

  • by GoodNewsJimDotCom (2244874) on Thursday April 26, 2012 @06:17PM (#39813317)
    To me, it sounds like a very bold claim to eliminate all the drawbacks from anything. Maybe you made it a little bit better. But I don't think there is anything in this universe that you can eliminate all the drawbacks. I mean even eliminating a drawback tends to make a new drawback. Lets say you made glass so durable that it wouldn't fracture when hit with a hammer, then you might not want to use that glass in an emergency box which says,"In case of emergency, smash glass"
    • by interkin3tic (1469267) on Thursday April 26, 2012 @07:03PM (#39813909)

      Lets say you made glass so durable that it wouldn't fracture when hit with a hammer, then you might not want to use that glass in an emergency box which says,"In case of emergency, smash glass"

      That would only be a drawback if this new "super" glass, when synthesized, automatically replaces all existing glass. Or somehow makes it impossible to make regular glass. Also, most of those have been replaced with "OPEN in the case of emergency." Like as in the fire extinguisher is behind a door and you can just open it. Much less dramatic, which is, I suppose, a drawback. You'll still look like a hero putting out the fire, but without blood dripping down your arm while doing so, you'll lose a bit of heroicness.

    • Lets say you made glass so durable that it wouldn't fracture when hit with a hammer, then you might not want to use that glass in an emergency box which says,"In case of emergency, smash glass"

      You mean like plexiglass is so durable it won't fracture when hit with a hammer - but when grooved, breaks with a modest tug on a bit of string?

      I.E. they'd no more use such glass in an emergency box without proper preparation than they would use current, bulletproof, glasses.

    • by dumuzi (1497471) on Thursday April 26, 2012 @08:39PM (#39815089) Journal
      And I would run into my patio door far more often. Damn clean glass.
    • by aled (228417)

      To me, it sounds like a very bold claim to eliminate all the drawbacks from anything.

      TFA says "to eliminate all of the drawbacks of glass". I guess it means "drawbacks of (current) glass". It says nothing about new drawbacks. Let's suppose Super Glass(tm) is deadly radioactive. You may say that's a drawback, but is not a drawback of current glass.

    • by wiedzmin (1269816)
      Is it unbreakable? If yes, is it recyclable? On the other hand - I would like a superhydrophobic beer glass /funnel.
    • Lets say you made glass so durable that it wouldn't fracture when hit with a hammer, then you might not want to use that glass in an emergency box which says,"In case of emergency, smash glass"

      That reminds me of Starship Titanic (the game). At one point you have to break some emergency glass to get a long stick, if you keep breaking the glass the ship informs you that it has now replaced it with unbreakable emergency glass to stop you. Must have used this stuff.

  • Vehicle Use? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by teknoviking (1209728) on Thursday April 26, 2012 @06:18PM (#39813325) Homepage
    If you could incorporate this in vehicles windshields, you'd have the same benefits and maybe not need mechanical wipers or defrosters.
    • by ChatHuant (801522)

      If you could incorporate this in vehicles windshields, you'd have the same benefits

      I don't know - windshields are made of tempered and laminated glass, which doesn't shatter on impact (it contains a layer of plastic bonded between two sheets of glass; this layer keeps pieces together so you get spider web cracking instead of pieces falling off) and which breaks in small chunks (as opposed to sharp shards flying all over the place). To temper glass you have to treat it with heat, which may destroy the surface cones the MIT process describes.

      • by Aranykai (1053846)

        Perhaps it could be an exterior piece of glass that was resin bonded to a conventional tempered glass windshield?

    • by PPH (736903) on Thursday April 26, 2012 @06:58PM (#39813839)

      No wipers? This is sure to run afoul of the powerful Brotherhood of Parking Lot Leaflet Stuffers union. BoPLLS will be drafting model legislation to ban its use.

      • No wipers? This is sure to run afoul of the powerful Brotherhood of Parking Lot Leaflet Stuffers union. BoPLLS will be drafting model legislation to ban its use.

        I doubt it, have you ever used that rain-x stuff that makes the water bead on your windshield? When I did, I found the beads of water to be very distracting while driving.

        • Re:Vehicle Use? (Score:5, Informative)

          by tom17 (659054) on Thursday April 26, 2012 @08:39PM (#39815079) Homepage

          That's funny, I am used to using rain-x. When it wears and I need to start using the wipers again, I find the huge chunks of metal and rubber whooshing past my face to be very distracting while driving.

          It's all down to what you are used to :)

          Plus Rain-X does a much better job of giving you good visibility in seriously heavy rain (imo).

      • by Zebedeu (739988)

        They will just stick them in the separation between the car's door and the chassis.
        At least that's what a few of them started to do around these parts. I guess they figured out that it was annoying people (i.e. their possible customers) when it rains and the flier sticks to your window.

        I'm still hoping that they come to the conclusion that putting trash in my car is always anoying, but like spam, that won't happen until it stops being effective (and I doubt it will).

    • by TheLink (130905)
      I wonder how abrasive this glass is. Would your wipers (or fingers) last about as long rubbing on this glass as compared to conventional glass?
  • by White Flame (1074973) on Thursday April 26, 2012 @06:18PM (#39813331)

    If this is as hydrophobic as they claim, I want a windshield made of the stuff.

    • Hmmm.... Idea - hydrophobic beer bottles.

      Would that even work?
      • by Black Parrot (19622) on Thursday April 26, 2012 @06:34PM (#39813529)

        Hmmm.... Idea - hydrophobic beer bottles.

        Would that even work?

        No, 'cause then *all* of it would squirt out when you pop the top.

        • Would make shotgunning a beer so much simpler to have it forced down (or even up) your throat under pressure. ;) No need to worry about swallowing slowing you down.

          • by adolf (21054)

            You can do that today: Just hold your nose, drop a Mentos into the bottle, plug the end of the bottle into your mouth, and hope the muscles at the back of your throat pick the right pipe for the stuff to be forced down...

            Or, you know: Drink a shot. Easier, faster, cleaner, more compact, and (if cost efficiency is a primary concern) often cheaper.

      • Hmmm.... Idea - hydrophobic beer bottles.

        Would that even work?

        Instant Diet Coke + Mentos effect. Great for practical jokes, not so great for beer drinking.

        • by idontgno (624372)

          Great for practical jokes, not so great for beer drinking.

          WTF are you talking about? This might be the greatest advancement in human history in hybridizing "beer bong" and "drinking from the fire hose". EVAR.

        • by geekoid (135745)

          It could be the basis for self pouring beer technology.

      • by Apothem (1921856)
        I would think it would. It'd make for the ultimate recyclable bottle. If it's hydrophobic and is self-cleaning, at that point you give them a simple scrub and they're back to being reused. The real question to me would be durability. If I drop my beer, is it going to go everywhere, or stay in the bottle? I suppose at that point, if you think of the other comments in this section, it'd make for some interesting effects.....
      • Would YOU like to drink a beer that had been in a Hydrophobic bottle for days if not weeks? Imagine if your arachnophobic girlfriend was kept in a spider-lined room for days. Would you like to be there when the door was opened?

    • I'm thinking the same thing, and not just the windshield, but with every window. It seems like a permanent application of Rain-X that never fades. BTW, that stuff is awesome!

      • you've not lived until you start buying rain-X brand windshield wiper fluid. It amounts to Rain-X that never fades because 'oh, the rain-x seems to have worn off' *press button* 'good to go!'
    • by NiteShaed (315799)

      If its as hydrophobic as they claim, I want a glass bottom boat made with it. It'd be awesome- just like a mag-lev, but on water!

    • by psychonaut (65759)
      Or better yet, a bathroom mirror.
    • by Xelios (822510)
      It'd be perfect... until you drive into a hail of tiny rocks a few times.
  • ...an influx of home videos of people running into sliding glass doors...and it is glorious.
  • Noooooo (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Twinbee (767046) on Thursday April 26, 2012 @06:25PM (#39813415) Homepage
    But then how can we buy new TV sets that actually look glossy and new!
    • I see a market for plastic coatings that people can put on their TV's to give them that glossy new look.

  • Sounds Relative (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward

    So... does this mean our children will never have the experience of looking out the a window covered in drops of water on a rainy day? I know it's a stupid little thing, but there is something oddly therapeutic and beautiful about it. Almost sad that it might become a thing of the past.

  • by Anonymous Coward
    What I'd really like to see is a type of glass that is transparent in one direction *ONLY*... regardless of illumination levels.
    • by ZorinLynx (31751)

      IN THIS HOUSE WE OBEY THE LAWS OF THERMODYNAMICS!!! - Homer Simpson

      And here's some more text to get around the caps filter. :)

  • the glass is more fragile than a nerd's dreams of world dominance and scoring hawt supermodels, so you'll have to layer it under mere mortal Gorilla glass, losing all of those amazing Super surface texturing effects. But at least it'll appear in the BoM, and on the marketing, and in the price. Particularly in the price.
  • Generally speaking, you can see through it both ways... that's a huge drawback of glass in a lot of cases.

    Tint or color, if any is present, is not changeable electronically

    I expect also that this doesn't remove the disadvantage of having to replace an entire pane when it gets cracked... where having something you could treat in-place and the crack would simply disappear would be ideal.

    • by Joe Snipe (224958)

      I've seen glass with a frost layer sandwiched in the middle that was electronically unfrosted.

  • want to know is: Did it pass the finger smudge test?
    • Agreed, there was nothing said about oily substance on the glass. I fear that, though they may have found a case for repelling water (for when I want to break out my tablet or HDTV in the pouring rain), body oil and what not will still be ever so wonderful to the screen for those who wish to see your swipe pattern (which you shouldn't be using, unless you use a stylus or carry a cloth with you.)
  • by squidflakes (905524) on Thursday April 26, 2012 @06:52PM (#39813751) Homepage

    Wow, glass with those properties being used for front elements on camera lenses would be amazing. Anti-glare without having to resort to all sorts of coatings, no fogging or moisture would be great too, especially if you're shooting in very humid environments.

    As long as the micro-structures on the surface didn't change the optical properties so much as to be detrimental to the incoming light.

    • by shimage (954282) on Thursday April 26, 2012 @08:57PM (#39815271)
      Wavefronts will reflect off of any surface where there is a change in wave speed. If the lens works as a lens, then it's hard to remove the reflections. Coatings work by reflecting the light back through the lens element (in a manner of speaking), so it still works well. If I understand the article correctly, some lab at MIT came up with a surface texture that causes water to bead. Probably the fact that it is very finely textured is the reason that reflections aren't a big problem. That is fine in the same way that matte screens are fine, but this isn't going to work if you want clear pictures. It might be ok on consumer lenses, though.
  • by trb (8509) on Thursday April 26, 2012 @06:52PM (#39813755)
    so this glass has really bad rabies?
  • For comparison... (Score:5, Informative)

    by Twinbee (767046) on Thursday April 26, 2012 @07:04PM (#39813937) Homepage
    For comparison with a water droplet (the closer to 180 degrees you get, the closer to a perfect non-wettable/sticky surface you have):

    This new glass (165 degree [googleusercontent.com] contact angle)
    The upcoming Neverwet [neverwet.com] material (160 to 175 degrees)
    Lotus leaf or even some birds' feather (150 degrees [wikipedia.org])
    Rain-X (110 degrees [cnet.com] - car windshield protector)
    Teflon (95-110 [wordpress.com] degrees - surprisingly low, but then it needs to be tough and heat-proof)
    Car wax (90 degrees)
    Human skin (90 degrees [google.co.uk] - PDF warning)

    I wonder what the durability of the glass is compared to Neverwet w(which is pervious to solvents, detergents, soap and high pressure water)...
    • Are you saying I could switch car wax for Human skin and get the same effect?

      • by Twinbee (767046)
        Probably, except, dead (or even alive) skin isn't quite so durable, or... mass producible come to that.
    • by Twinbee (767046)
      To add if anyone's reading at this point, liquid mercury has a contact angle between 135 and 142 degrees [ptodirect.com]. So that makes the top three even more "liquid-mercury-like" than liquid mercury, but obviously without the danger that substance brings to the table.
  • if they can just find some way to magnetize it we can clean up broken glass with a magnet....
  • How is this different than hydrophobic? Does water cross the street when it see this glass? Does the water bounce off the glass with a higher velocity than when it landed?

  • It seems to be a good glass to make lenses for telescopes.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday April 26, 2012 @07:54PM (#39814555)

    If is all as stated..then it has great application. Aircraft cockpit windows just for one. I am sure that fighter pilots would love to have clearer visibility ( at least thru the windows itself) while going 700+ mph in rain.

  • by TankSpanker04 (1266400) on Thursday April 26, 2012 @07:55PM (#39814569)

    Porn-friendly monitors?

  • That's the Spirit (Score:3, Insightful)

    by alien-alien (471416) on Thursday April 26, 2012 @09:07PM (#39815389)

    Spirit and Opportunity would have benefited greatly from glass that was self cleaning. Would not have needed to wait for Dust Devils and playful Mars Bunnies to clean off the photo cells.

  • This is what patents are supposed to be for, instead of "sure we know its obvious but this time we did it with a computer!".

  • by bdwoolman (561635) on Thursday April 26, 2012 @10:35PM (#39816269) Homepage

    The surface sounds perfect to line the inside of a commode. Opaque better than transparent for this application, however. At least IMHO.

    Remember: You saw it on Slashdot before you saw it at the rest stop. w00t

  • Anti-reflective? This could be used to help solar panels capture more light.

  • Been thinking a long time about 3D printing in the context of Neal Stephenson's - The Diamond Age. Particularly about the relative recycle-ability of various materials. Glass seems pretty ideal from a flexibility (can be used many ways) and recycling perspective. The high heat required to return it to a liquid state is a problem, as is it's brittleness (not suitable for as many applications as plastic).

    Does anyone have a link to a glass 3D printing machine?
  • One of the reasons a popular cell-phone has sold so well is that it's made of glass and so shatters if you drop it. If this new glass is doesn't break when you drop it that will have a significant impact on sales.

  • by doug141 (863552) on Friday April 27, 2012 @11:53AM (#39821895)
    They put micro-cones on the surface that are 5 times taller than they are wide. Might not stand up to handling or hail.
  • by WOOFYGOOFY (1334993) on Friday April 27, 2012 @02:49PM (#39824531)

    When I was a kid we went to the Corning glass museum in Corning NY. There they had a show room where they displayed all the stuff they could do with glass

    I seem to remember one display in which a flame was applied to one side of a piece of glass and a pot of water was on the other side with a thermometer in it to show the temp was just room temp, despite being subjected to open flame , separated only by that pane of glass.

    I wonder what ever became of that technology and why today it's not in every window in the world . The energy savings would be incredible- most air conditioning- heat or cooling- escapes through your window which has an R value of 2 or in the case of insulated glass unit (IGU) at best an R-value of 8.

    Self cleaing windows save water and that's a Good Thing, but heat blocking glass saves energy and that's a Very Good Thing.

If a thing's worth having, it's worth cheating for. -- W.C. Fields

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